Friday, June 28, 2013

Vinegar Produce Wash

Vinegar Produce Wash

Lance told me last night that I’m crazy, but in a “good, non-lazy” way. I’m not sure what laziness has to do with craziness and when I tried to get Lance to expand, I couldn’t really get anything more out of him. I like to believe that I’m crazy because I care. Crazy, caring Kara is better than apathetic Kara who doesn’t care about anything. I'm going somewhere with this, so stay with me.

Anyway. Moving on.

I’ve seen vinegar produce washes come up on several blogs and I’ve been intrigued by them. White vinegar is cheap and is always something that I have on hand. Dumping a little into a bowl of water and then throwing my fruit in the bowl is something that this busy momma can handle. I saw on one blog that a water/vinegar wash can kill up to 98% of bacteria and remove pesticides. While they didn’t site specific research or findings, I can’t help but think that this vinegar-water rinse is better than my previous quick wash under tap water. That, combined with ease of use, was enough to convince me that this was an easy step to make our lives a bit healthier. There are times when I don’t have access to great all-natural produce (or I can’t afford it – why does this automatically make me feel like less of a mom?) and I worry about what “other” things we might be consuming.
I used my gigantic red “Thatsa Bowl” from Tupperware. I dumped in a ¼ of a cup of white vinegar and then added my grapes, strawberries, apples and blueberries. Next I filled the remainder of the bowl with cold water and let everything sit for around 20 minutes before I drained out all the water and then rinsed the contents with cold water. Couldn’t be easier and I was surprised by how scummy the vinegar water was afterwards. This is definitely something that I’ll be doing again in the future with all my produce – cheap and easy – my favorite combination! 

And the reason Lance called me crazy was because he thinks this is an unnecessary step. But because I care deeply, he goes along with it. And because vinegar costs like a dollar. :)

Fruit pictures taken at night in a lurid red bowl are challenging. This is a snapshot of my clean fruit!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Side note: Joy Stealers

Sometimes when I hear people talking about their fabulous vacations or their new house they're building, I want to ask how much credit card debt they carry or if they have any unpaid loans. And then I remember that Dave Ramsay never recommended running around confronting people about their money choices and I'm fairly certain this isn't something Jesus would do either. I recall something about having a log in my own eye...
I have a great life. I have a great family, a wonderful husband, a terrific son and a place to sleep at night. I even have some pretty shoes to boot.
Don't let comparisons steal your joy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ramen Noodle Coleslaw

I originally posted this here, but thought as we roll into summertime and the 4th of July, it was worth sharing again. 

I’m always left slightly befuddled when I’m asked to bring something to a picnic. I hate to always be bringing dessert and I’m picky about what sides I make. I like my sides to have some health benefit to them, whether that comes in the form of fruit or vegetable. I am not a mayonnaise-y kind of salad gal. Generally speaking, I find those type of macaroni salads to be sloppy and gloppy (rhyming intentional) and lacking in bold flavors. Macaroni salads are just kind of gross. Typically I avoid potato salad too. I find that potato salad and deviled eggs to be based on personal preference. I only like potato salad and deviled eggs the way my mom makes them. I’ve had too many bad encounters where I’ve found diced celery lurking in the murky mayonnaise depths. So I just stay away from them. Now that I’ve basically removed most mayonnaise based salads from my repertoire, that leaves only a few salads I like to eat at your average summer picnic. This Ramen Noodle Cole Slaw is not your “typical” coleslaw. Big surprise, it has ZERO mayonnaise in it. But it’s delicious and I’ve always gotten rave reviews when I bring it with me. It’s easy to make and easier to consume.

Note: the last time I made this they were out of cabbage coleslaw mix at the grocery store. After a quick google search, I determined that coleslaw mix consists of shredded cabbage and carrots. If you find yourself in a pinch, use one head of cabbage and roughly chop it up. Then add one shredded carrot – it’s easier and cheaper!

Ramen Noodle Coleslaw
1 pkg cabbage slaw mix
4 green onions, chopped
1 pkg. Ramen noodles (chicken), crumbled
1 1/2 c. chopped up broccoli
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. shelled sunflower seeds

2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. white vinegar
1/2 c. canola oil
Flavor packet from the ramen noodles

Mix all salad ingredients except the noodles and refrigerate a few hours. Mix dressing ingredients separately from the salad ingredients. Top with noodles and dressing before serving.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Homemade Granola - an ode to Erika

This is my friend, Erika's recipe. She was my first "real" friend when we moved here to Des Moines. Then she up and broke my heart and moved away, four years into our friendship. We've always operated on the same wavelength and Erika got me involved in the going-on's at church and always had an open door. We worked together and had kiddy-korner cubes at the same office, were in the same small group and she was the lady I went to when I had mommy questions. You can only imagine my complete dismay when they announced they were moving 7 months into my pregnancy. How in the world was I going to be able to take care of a little BOY? Then when we had Lucan and were still in the hospital, Erika came to visit me TWICE and called me everyday for two weeks when we went home. She was and is a blessing still today. Even living wayyy too far away now. But this is her recipe and I always smile and think of her when I make it.

One of our more glamorous pictures at the Iowa State Fair

One of my favorite summer breakfasts is greek yogurt parfaits with homemade granola and fresh fruit. Sliced bananas, strawberries and blueberries when they are in season are perfect in parfaits. The greek yogurt keeps you full with all the protein and I love the crunchy, slightly salty taste the granola adds too. I’ll make a big batch of granola to keep on hand and then use it to grab and go as I’m running out the door in the morning. Lance loves to snack on it plain in the afternoon as a pick-me-up.

4 cups old-fashioned oats (NOT quick oats!)
1 ½cup sliced almonds
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ c. dried fruit

In a large bowl, mix the oats, almonds, cinnamon and brown sugar. Set aside. In a small bowl, lightly heat oil and honey in the microwave, maybe around 30 seconds. Stir in vanilla. Pour liquid over the oats and almonds, and mix until evenly-coated.

Spread oat mixture on cookie sheet, and place in the oven. Heat oven to 325 degrees and bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. (Funny story: for the longest time I had it in my mind that this needed to bake at 350 degrees, which would inevitably burn the granola. I did this three times until I finally highlighted in the recipe 325 degrees!) Remove from cookie sheet to cool and add dried fruit or dried coconut after everything has cooled. Store in a covered container and enjoy.

Variations: you can add any combination of dried fruit. In the past I’ve stirred in cranberries, cherries, cut up apricots and raisins. If you are feeling especially adventurous, add a few mini-chocolate chips too.

There are lots of great granola recipes, but I love the simplicity of this one. I especially love the price tag of homemade granola because it is so much less expensive than buying it at the grocery store. I especially love Big Sky Bakery’s granola (you can find it at many Hy-Vees and typically they’re at the Valley Junction Farmer’s Market and the Downtown Farmer’s Market) but I do not love the hefty price tag for a bag of their granola. This granola is so much cheaper and you have control of what exactly you put in. That’s what I love about making things – knowing what the ingredients are to the foods that you put into your body! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Life of a Two-Year-Old

Lucan you are a joy. Seeing the world through your eyes, shows me how much potential for fun exists!
Here are your two-year stats and with a little luck, it will be a whole other year before we visit Dr. Cureg again.

  • 73rd percentile for weight at 28 pounds
  • 90th percentile at 19.5 inches for head circumference
  • 74th percentile at 35.5 inches for height
  • 24 months and 2T clothing
  • 8ish bedtime and sleeping until at least 7AM the next morning with a 2.5 hour nap in the afternoons
  • Getting his two-year molars
  • Drinks really well out of a cup without a lid. In fact, Lucan loves stealing cups to try and drink out of by himself.
  • Had our first stiches scare when Lucan fell off the steps of the deck at daycare and bopped his face and lip
  • Comes and tells us when you need your diaper changed. Lucan are you dirty? Do you need your diaper changed? --- head nod yes. I figure this a step in the right direction of potty training.
  • Leads us by the hand when he wants something and want us to come with him. It's pretty funny when Lu wants both of us to come with him and he also is carrying something. Too much to hold onto! 
  • All Lu wants to do is play outside. All day long. Winter is going to come as a shock.
  •  Lucan had his first mall play-place and Chucky Cheese experiences. At daycare. Because as a complete germ-phobe, his mom refuses to take him there. Our daycare provider seemed really surprised that Lucan had never been to Chucky Cheese. I prefer for my child to live in a world where those sorts of places don't exist. Because if they don't exist, I don't have to go there. I'm sure she would have been even more stunned to find out Lucan has never played at a mall. Malls exist for shopping and Chik-Fil-A. Amen.
  • I'm not sure if Lucan is avidly choosing not to remember which body parts are which, but he used to be able to point to his nose, eye, mouth, chin, foot, knee, and ear. Sometimes he does this. Sometimes not. Chalk it up to toddler-hood.
  • One of his favorite things to do is to turn the lights on and off. He'll point to the lights and say "ice?" and then want to flip the switch.
  • Ou-side? (outside)
  • Shoes - socks (needed before going ou-side)
  • Kitty & Fire
  • Annie (my parents cat)
  • Tu-mper (Thumper - Lance's parents dog)
  • Pea-se? (please)
  • Supper
  • Apple
  • Sit! (He says this insistently and wants you to sit down by him. Often times it's for a story to be read to him)
  • Juice
  • Dirty
  • Yucky
  • Ice (lights)
  • Quack
  • Spoon
  • Old words - mommy, daddy, NO, yes, milk, hot, car, yay, oh-no, uh-oh, bye, hi, mine, tv, tree, sheepie. 
  • We've been lucky, it appears that cold season has temporarily passed and that Lu is healthy - wohoo!
  • Lance and I were talking last night about a sample creche (daycare) menu from the book Bebe: Day by Day. If Lucan were French, he would be raised on things like cheese courses, sugar-free strawberry-apple puree, hake (fish - Lance didn't know) and tomato lemon salad. Instead his creche feeds him toddler food: chicken fingers, bologna (me shuddering), pop tarts (oh my, the sugar levels make me cringe) and fruit loops. I know that I'm not the healthiest person and eat more than my fair share of candy, but I try and make an effort to eat whole foods and limit the amount of processed crap I consume. So instead of insisting that my son be fed bran flakes and salmon for lunch, I'm going to keep my mouth shut and try and dial down my mommy crazy. 
  • Favorite foods: popcorn and go-go (yogurt tubes. I make Lucan eat greek yogurt). Still loves beans and meat that doesn't get mixed into other stuff (ie: casseroles). He ate three bowls of chicken and wild rice soup the other night, so that was a win.
  • Lucan dislikes being rushed in the mornings. Most mornings there is a tantrum because Lu's not ready to have his clothes changed and go to daycare.
  • When we pick Lucan up from daycare, he will run to us with a big hug. Then he's ready to be put down and continue playing. Sometimes there is a battle when we go home too. 
  • Lu wants to be in the thick of things. When one of us is making supper (actually just me, Lance can't seem to feel like he can cook without me), Lu wants to be picked up so he can see what's going on. He'll also drag the footstool out of the pantry when he feels like he's missing out on the action. 
  • Sometimes all of us just need our quiet moments. Lu climbs up into our laps and just sits and we rock a bit. These moments are infrequent because most of the time Lucan is on the go.
Two has been fun. It's been a learning experience for everyone :) And as many times as I've heard about the "terrible twos" I've recently been getting wind that "threes" are even worse. Lucky us! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Blogging at Des Moines Parent ---- Fun Things to do this Summer!

(This originally appeared over at Des Moines Parent)

Fun Things to Do This Summer
  1. Strawberry picking! A couple of summers ago we took a road trip and picked strawberries at Berry Fresh Farms in Adel. We got a little zealous and picked three flats of strawberries. At some point I forgot that half of the fun is eating fresh strawberries because we made all of ours into strawberry freezer jam! Now that our strawberry freezer jam is gone, I think it’s time to make another trip to pick some berries. Especially since Lucan loves them! Strawberry picking allows kids to get some fresh air and sunshine, but more importantly lets them get their hands dirty and gets them excited about fresh produce. I just hope I can teach Lucan which berries are ripe for picking :)
  2. Ashby Splash Park in Beaverdale. While Lu and I haven’t gotten a chance to visit this wading pool, I’ve heard great things about it from several moms. Best of all – it’s free and great for youngsters. There’s no worries about large wave pools (Lance has an irrational fear of drowning in a wave pool) or too deep of water because the park is especially designed with kiddos in mind.
  3. Vacation Bible Schools. I have lots fond of memories attached to summer VBS. Making popsicle stick and yarn crafts, singing songs and eating lots of broccoli.  VBS was the first time I remember an adult commenting on how odd my love from broccoli was. Vacation Bible school has come a long ways since I was a kid. Now there are videos, community service projects and dramas every night. Life 107.1 keeps a calendar with community events and has many churches’s vacation Bible school programs listed. Most programs are free or inexpensive and are great at keeping kids engaged during the summer.
  4. I've posted about this before, but I still think its a great idea. Cinemark Movie Theaters (Jordan Creek movie theater) are doing a summer movie program designed for kids. They are showing special kiddo movies for only a $1! Now if only I didn't a) work full-time and b) have a very busy two-year-old with a short attention span. But if you don't have to deal with Problem #1 or Problem #2, I suggest that you take advantage and plan a movie date with your child.
 So the next time your child exclaims, “Moooomm... I’m bored. There’s nothing to do!” you can keep a few of these ideas in your back pocket for just such occasions.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

May Budget Fail and Resulting Thoughts.

Living with a cash budget, the end of the month can start looking a little dicey. Lance does a very good job of plotting out where our money needs to go. I do a very good job of spending our money. The problem we run into is when Lance tries to have our budget conversation with me on Sunday nights when all I want to do is watch Masterpiece Theater on PBS (I never said that I was cool folks!). This is probably why we ran into the problems we did this past month. 
While Lance does his due diligence in figuring out exactly how much money we need to allocate to savings, giving, bills, Christmas, etc. he is not good with knowing how to plan for the monthly one-off’s. Things like: a birthday gift for our niece, a birthday gift for a cousin, Mothers Day gifts, party supplies for Lu’s birthday party, etc. Those things are up to me, the one with the planner, the one with the permanent calendar etched into my brain.

Last month was a complete fail for me. While we did discuss upping our budget to allow for garden plants and garage sales, I completely forgot about two baby shower gifts, a wedding shower, paying for Lucan’s two-year-old pictures and all of those other presents. That was part was my fault. I bombed my very small part in our budget planning. With Lucan’s birthday being at the very beginning of June, I should have thought to allow for birthday party expenses. So what did we end up doing to make up the very apparent deficient?

One. We ate out of the freezer and pantry and only bought produce or fresh items that were absolutely essential. Things like whole milk for Lucan and fresh fruit. I did not allow myself to linger over pintrest finding new recipes with fun new ingredients.
Two. The produce I did buy was on sale or discounted. I like to shop at Fareway on Mondays when they discount all the close-date veggies. This is how we were able to get blueberries and cherries.
Three. I stayed out of Target and put off buying diapers until June 1. Then when I did go to Target, Lance caught me wandering through clothes and firmly scolded me. In return I sang to him “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” I guess singing “Come Thou Fount” isn’t about a gal with an insatiable shopping habit and not a valid excuse to wander through clothes when I’m supposed to be buying ONLY diapers.
Four. I did not allow myself to buy things that I knew that we had run out of but didn’t necessarily need RIGHT then. I usually keep a running grocery list of things that I’ve used that need to be replaced. In May I kept a list and didn’t replace. This can be dangerous for the following month’s budget, but hopefully we’ve planned better and have a bit more wiggle room.
Five. Of the gifts that I needed to buy still, I got lucky. I had bought a couple of them in previous months and limited overall what I did buy.
Six. I let go of some of the fun decorations I wanted for Lucan’s party. The party was still cute and nice, just in a more minimal fashion.
Seven. I made a little extra money this past month with blogging and surveys and applied the overage to the budget. This funded a good portion of Lucan’s party. Thankfully.
Eight. I think we’ve had one of the rainiest Mays in history. Our garden is only about a quarter planted and the plants we have planted have been gifted to us or are leftover from last year (case in point: onions. There’s basically a full row that we forgot to pull that are coming up very nicely!) We’ll still have this expense in June, but for now it helped the May budget.
Because of all these cuts, we only had to dip into $20 of our monthly blow money. Mid-May budget check-in looked pretty grim, but we managed to still be okay. Looking forward to June, we only have Fathers Day gifts to purchase and one other weekend that we’re traveling. Hopefully we won’t be in such dire straights at the end of June because we’re headed to Michigan for five days.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lucan: 2-years-old

The days are long but the years are short.
How I could have possibly ended up with a two-year-old is simply befuddling to me.

Dearest Lucan,

You are two-years-old. You are sweet and smart and funny and a good dancer. You love music and bopping along to the beat. On Sunday mornings, we often catch you trying to sneak back into service to enjoy a second round of praise and worship. I hope this foreshadows your love to worship the Lord. You love to play outside and to run up to the patio-door with shoes in hand and say "outside? outside?" Little boys love adventure and the great outdoors. You are no exception.

Little LuLu, you flourish under positive reinforcement and wilt under consequence. You have taught your momma more than one lesson about finding humor in otherwise "challenging" situations. I pray that you will grow to be kind, compassionate and generous. That you will love the Lord. And that someday you will find a great woman to love too. Dear boy, love is important. Spread your wings and be fearless.

We've been your parents for two years now and can't imagine anything differently.

Love you lots LuLu.